Tuesday 24 July 2012, 09:55
Shenzhen would be our final base of the tour with one concert in Shenzhen itself, and one in Guangzhou, China's third largest city.
Stepping out of the airport in Shenzhen, it felt as though both the heat and humidity had upped a notch. However, the sky seemed much clearer than it had done in Beijing or Shanghai. I found the overcast sky of Beijing quite oppressive, and it was nice to actually see blue above you.
Despite having almost bathed in DEET, I had somehow picked up an irritatingly large number of insect bites somewhere between the Shanghai hotel and the coach from Shenzhen airport (Irish blood would appear to be a rare delicacy for mozzies and every other biting thing), and so it was that I spent the journey trying not to scratch my legs like a crazy person. On arrival at the hotel I was rather consoled by the outdoor pool.
Outside the Shenzhen concert hall, a group of us girls were stopped by a young girl and her mother who were attending the concert. It transpired that she was studying bass at a local music school and she was very excited to meet Claire from our bass section. We even had our photos taken - it was a bit like being papped, but nicer.
The journey from Shenzhen to Guangzhou was an arduous one. On the route to Tianjin, the countryside was notable for the seemingly unending urban expansion evident on the outskirts of cities, with miles of new build high rise flats stretching as far as the eye could see.
Each night, we played two encore pieces. The first was one of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches, and the second a traditional Chinese song called My Motherland, arranged by Qigang Chen. The delighted reaction of the audiences each night to this piece was quite overwhelming - shouting and cheering, clapping and squealing.
It had been a really wonderful tour. Although the immigration queue crossing over to Hong Kong, which was in excess of an hour, was a definite low, and threw into sharp relief the difference in attitude between the British and every other nationality when it comes to queuing, the humour and camaraderie of one's colleagues make the high points of touring much more memorable.
Arriving in Heathrow at 5am, it was pleasant to walk outside (after an anxious few moments when it seemed my luggage had disappeared), and to feel a gentle coolness on the skin. There may be no pork dumplings for breakfast today, but at least I won't break into a profuse glow of perspiration with the slightest movement!
However, all that heat and humidity has been good training - this week we begin preparations to face the microclimate of the Royal Albert Hall, in our first Prom on Thursday!
The orchestra will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 26 July as part of the BBC Proms 2012; you can hear them live on BBC Radio 3 from 7pm.